Thursday, February 28, 2008

Closing the Digital Gap

The New York Times column, Lesson Plans, posts articles written by classroom teachers. In an example of one column, a first grade teacher reports on her classroom experiences using computers. Read her column, Closing the Digital Gap in the Classroom, and post your comments. Here is the needed link:

The article also has a link to a report called Digital Opportunity. Click on the embedded link to read the report.

Don’t forget to return and post your comments here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Book

This YouTube has long been a favorite of students, so I thought I would repost the link to it for your enjoyment and critical response. Let us know what you think.

Shortchanging Media Literacy

A survey commissioned by Cable in the Classroom (CIC) found that schools are not doing enough to teach media literacy skills and teachers are not being prepared to teach these skills. Read the report on the research findings, and then post your comments. The survey responses are based on a sample of over 1,000 participants, most of whom are classroom teachers, though some were school library-media specialists. The report is 8 pages and filled with charts. You might want to print it to read it more carefully.

What did you learn from reading the report? Did the findings surprise you? Have they in any way changed your attitudes or beliefs about present classroom teaching practices?

Cable in the Classroom Media Literacy Report

Image from:

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Smaller Laptops for K-12 Students

One large school system in Texas is looking into shifting from its one laptop per student program to one PDA-laptop per student. These smaller computers will run $200-$500 apiece and weigh far less than the laptops students presently lug around. However, the smaller machines will have less storage capacity and smaller screens and keyboards.

Although the school district does not yet supply computers to younger children, they do get Alpa word processors. A small laptop model, though, is under consideration for younger students as the districts moves ahead with a bulk purchase of new equipment. Presently, all high school students receive laptops.

A central issue is teacher readiness to use the computers. Students complain teachers don't incorporate the technology in the classroom. Irving school administrators recognize teacher buy in is critical. Teachers must know how to use the computers effectively to make the investment work.

Ultimately, school administrators see the benefits of the expanded program as producing computer savvy students ready for the workforce and putting the technology in the hands of students who otherwise would not have the access.

To learn more about this district’s plan, read this recent Dallas News story, click on the hyperlink or the the URL:

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Fun with Grammar Rules

Learn and review grammar rules through clever podcasts instead of reading stuffy grammar books. Visit Grammar Girls to see what I mean. Just today, the trick of the day was when to use “might” versus “may,” and I learned a thing or two. Grammar Girl's way of explaining the rules is humorous and helpful. Check the Tip of the Day, but also use the Search feature for finding a rule that stymies you. Be sure to click on the play button to hear the podcast. Keep the URL link for Grammar Girl bookmarked for future reference.

Grammar Girls

At this same site, you will also find Money Girl.

The quick and dirty podcasts from Grammar Girl and Money Girl are sure to amuse while teaching you valuable lessons. Enjoy!

Post your comments and suggestions for use for these sites in the school setting. Let us know if Grammar Girl helps you get an often confused usage rule finally straightened out.

Credit for image: the banner at

Friday, February 22, 2008

Blogging Hits the Classroom Setting

To hear from students' points of view about blogging in the classrom, view this YouTube video.

Which of the reasons mentioned in the video, do you agree with? Which do you disgree with?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Powering Up for the Gifted Student

Apart from the controversy surrounding public school districts offering virtual education, via online courses, Stanford University has found another means to circumvent the public funding for online courses. Stanford offers a fee based program of online learning for gifted students looking for advanced work in the areas of math, physics, computer science, and writing. With the cutbacks in funding for gifted programs in public education, the Stanford model supplies one model for addressing needs to challenge our gifted students. According to an article in The Stanford Daily, Stanford University has reached over 60,000 students nationally through its K-12 gifted programs. Check out the program via the following article, and post your comments. How do you feel about private funding to cover gifted education? Will the growth of such programs further absolve public schools from meeting the needs of our gifted children as they find outlets elsewhere and pay for them? With the class divides keep the poor from receiving a gifted education once again? Check the article in the Stanford Daily by following the below link:

Education Program for Gifted Youth

Image courtesy of:

Cell Phones Under Another Attack

Concerns about students cheating by using cell phones during exams has prompted Florida state to ban cell phones on test days. Check out this story, and post your comments.

Laptops Replace Textbooks

The concept of computers supplanting textbooks is not new. Check out how one school is phasing in laptops in lieu of textbooks. After reading this Baltimore Sun article, post your comments.

Click on link: Learning with Laptops

Photo credit: Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam / January 29, 2008

Move Over Guys

The stereotype of males as computer “geeks” is in demise. Now, with many sites allowing users to be creators, young girls are flocking to the Internet. Check this February 21, 2008 New York Times article for shifting demographics among the young regarding computer usage. Post your comments on the ramifications for teachers who teach adolescents or pre-teens. Will girls' usage of computers outpace boys? Ask some girls what they think? Ask them how they use the Internet? Ask some boys? What do you learn from the article? How does that compare from what you are hearing from adolescents?

Hyperlink to article:

Illustration: Adam Strange, as appeared with the article in NYT

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Lesson Plan Sites

Yes, many sites for lesson plans are now available on the Internet. Share your favorite ones by posting a comment. In the meantime, here is the URL for one. Let me know what you think of this HotChalk site:

Monday, February 18, 2008

Physics Teacher Achieves World-Fame through Online Videos

Check out this online video that is reaching audiences around the world. Think of the promise such videos have not only for teaching physics but an array of disciplines. Aaron, be sure to let us know what you think. This video is sponsored by E-Learning, a subsidary of US World and News Report, and features Walter Lewin, a MIT professor. The picture to the left is a video capture of Lewin taken from the article. Be sure to watch the video when you click to the site. Lewin claims 3,000 people a day watch his lectures, including his own sophomore and junior students at MIT. The article also provides his responses to interview questions about his worldwide fame as a teacher, thanks to the Internet.
Post your comments!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

21st Century Literacy

Be sure to check out this provocative article about the sea of change in educating today's students to be literate for the future. The article appeared in the most recent edition of Technology & Learning. After skimming the article, ponder the literacy standards for students and teachers bulleted in the boxes at the end of the article. What is your response to the ways in which students of the new millennium should be taught and how teachers need to adapt and learn new skills? According to the author, Susan Lester, we can't escape the fact that social networking sites like MySpace, iPod technology, blogging, and wikis are placing new demands on classroom teachers to stay abreast of technology's power to alter the way we communicate and collaborate.
Here is the link to the article. Post your comments after reading it, and feel free to send the article along to colleagues in the education field.

source for cartoon: blogshakespearecomic

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Internet Prompts a New Kind of Student Engagement in Politics

Here are some snippets from Washington Post reporter’s Jose Antonio Vargas story on computer technology contribution to the young’s engagements in the current presidential election and politics.

Vargas reports on Eugenia Garcia, a Harvard University student, and her attachment to computer resources to abet her involvement in the presidential primaries. Gracia, concerned about the war in Iraq, our healthcare system, global warming, immigration controls, is an avid users of blogging, e-mail chains, MeetUp groups, YouTube, Facebook and MySpace. She attributes the interest in politics among the young to online possibilities that make the news fast breaking and also interactive. On blogs and social networking sites, readers readily post comments.

Garcia daily makes her rounds of the Web—consulting, chatting with friends on Skype, and checking a plethora of political sites like, a site created by students for students, or anyone interested in the political scene., per Garcia, prompts young people to be well-informed citizens and voters.Founded this past October by a 20-year-old Harvard sophomore Will Ruben, VoteGopher illustrates the young not only use the Internet to keep informed but assume responsibility for accuracy and currency in reporting on the campaign trail. Evident of the power of the site, Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton posted positions statements. VoteGopher features 16 issues, among them education, health care, the Iraq War, global warming—topics of concern to the young. The site's motto is, "We dig, you decide."
Reporting on the Ruben and his staff of 25, Vargas observes students research debate transcripts, scour YouTube videos, and scout through countless news sites for content. Though users can make submissions, their contributions are filtered before posting.Washington-based Pew Internet & American Life Project Lee Rainie comments of VoteGopher: "It's impressive what they've been able to put together. Back in the pre-Internet era, these students would have just attended town hall meetings, stuffed envelopes, maybe made some phone calls to be involved. These days they're starting their own websites."As we all know, voter turnout in the primaries among those in their 20s has skyrocketed. Not only is this demographic group shaping politics, they are authoring it. The Internet, in that vein, has increased citizen participation in the political scene.

What are your thoughts about how the political process will be shaped by the Internet? What are the pros? What about cons? What about youth involvement?

Source: The Hartford Courant, February 17, 2008, ,,0,5721641.story>
Cartoon source:

You Tube in the Classroom

Take a look at this YouTube video, using the hyperlink provided at the end. Although the video captures the college student of today, let us know what implications you see for students K-12. Note this YouTube was created by a class of college students taking an enthnographic technology class. The video will give you a sense of how students in college can use multimedia to create a provocative commentary for an immensely wide audience. Think of the critical thinking and technology skills the students needed to use to produce this video. How does the video help you envision different ways for teaching students today? Here is the link. Turn on your speakers.
Post your comments!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Teens Teach Computer Classes

High school students at Baltimore's Marriotts Ridge High School stay after school to volunteer their time to teach computer classes to other students and community members. Among the offerings are courses in website design, Photoshop, and general Microsoft application programs. The volunteers write and implement lesson plans, serving as teachers, developing valuable professional skills. Middle school students taking the classes report gaining valuable skills in anticipation of their high school studies.

Photo of Sammy Fishman, 8th grader, Mount View Middle School, who says learning programming "challenges my abilities." (Sun photo by Doug Kapustin / January 24, 2008)

For more information about the community service project, read the this article in the The Baltimore Sun:,0,6364191.story

What do you think of high school student volunteering their time in this way? What do you see as the advantages?

Laws Against Cyberbullying

Given teachers' concerns about cyberbullying, I thought I would share with you information about recent legislature to address the mounting problem.

Seven states have passed legislature permitting school districts to take action against online harassment. The laws focus on use of school computers to send such messages. In some states, laws enable school systems to become involved when off-campus cyberbullying occurs. The American Civil Liberties Union, however, finds this practice problematic, as school are extending their reach.
According to a USA Today, at least two teen suicides have been linked to cyberbullying.
Use this link to read an USA Today article on current cyberbullying laws:
Should laws exist to discipline students who engage in cyberbullying on school grounds? What about when the cyberbullying extends off school property but emanates from instances that occurred on school grounds?And, should cyberbullying laws exist separately or alongside existing school discilinary policies on bullying? Post your comments.

Online Learning Hits High Schools Big Time

As a follow up to a blog I posted this week, I have two additions:

CT Launches Virtual Learning Center

High school students in Connecticut can take online Algebra, Geometry, English, Civics, and Health. Connecticut Virtual Learning Center operates at no cost to school systems, and credits issued to students transfer to their own high schools. The pilot project, funded through an $850,000 state grant, will enroll about 500 students each semester. The Connecticut Education Network, which connects all school districts in the state, will serve The Connecticut Virtual Learning Center to deliver the course content. Students who fail courses will be able to avoid summer school by earning the credits through the online courses taken in the school year. Another perk is students wil have access to course difficult to run within a local school system, for instance, Mandarin Chinese, Biotechnology and International Business. The Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium (CTDLC), which sponsors our Saint Joseph College Blackboard platform, will assist with hosting, technical and administrative support, and other aspect. Connecticut certified teachers trained to teach online high school courses will teach the courses.
To read more about the new Virtual school, check this government document:

North Carolina Leading the Way

I just learned that The Chapel Hill-Carrboro, North Carolina school district plans to run its high school summer school program entirely online. State law prohibits charging students in need of remediation in paying for summer school courses. Students attending summer school for remediation will meet in labs on school sites. The online method reduces district's expenditures. Fewer teachers are hired with a higher student-to-teacher ratio. Teachers will monitor students in the labs. Students will work at their own pace and their variety of skills levels will be better served through individualized instruction.

In North Carolina, high school students have already had access to state’s Virtual Public School. Their online teachers design the assignments, track of student work, and work with students via e-mail and electronic communication channels. To read more about North Carolina’s venture, use this link and then click on the link, Summer School Goes Online:

Also, check this local newspaper article on the story:

What are your opinions on the summer school online program? Read our blog February and comments for additional information on online learning. To what extent, do you think online learning, already prevalent in higher education, will hit the K-12 scene? Can you see why for some students and school districts online learning might be a viable option?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Connecticut Online Classes for High School Students

Thanks to Lisa Turner for keeping us update about what Connecticut state has proposed for high school students to take online courses. After skimming the proposal, let us know what you think. Post a comment, please.

Online Courses Available to Connecticut High School Students

Governor M. Jodi Rell recently announced the launch of the CT Virtual Learning Center, a statewide program for High School students to take online courses. Enrollments are being accepted now for students to begin coursework in January 2008 and beyond.

“We want to use online courses to increase access to high quality content so that every student in Connecticut will have access to the courses they need when they need them,” said Governor Rell. “In preparing our young people for the 21st century workforce, it is necessary that we employ these same powerful tools to improve access, equity and employment readiness.”

Funded by the General Assembly within the 2008 budget, this pilot project will be available at no cost to school districts. Students will remain enrolled in their current schools, but will have the option to take online courses that meets their academic needs. (See for listing of available courses).

“The state has created a high speed optical computer network, called the Connecticut Education Network that connects all the school districts in the state,” said Governor Rell. “The Connecticut Virtual Learning Center will be using this state resource in the delivery its online content.”

The primary focus for the program will be twofold:

Courses for students at risk of falling behind or failing will be offered in Algebra, Geometry, English, Civics or Health. Students can avoid summer school and recover credit by taking these online courses during the school year.

Interesting electives that may not be available at many schools, such as Mandarin Chinese, Biotechnology and International Business.

The curriculum for these dynamic, fully interactive online courses have been approved by the State Department of Education’s Bureau of Curriculum and Instruction and will be taught by CT certified teachers.
“Online learning is an option for students that need the flexibility to learn something at their own pace,” Governor Rell said. “The online experience is relevant and transferable to future opportunities.”

That necessity is recognized by Michigan, the first state to require every student to take at least one online experience in order to graduate high school. Other states across the country are actively working to implement policies and programs for online learning options that open educational choices to their students.

The CT Virtual Learning Center is being run by the Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium (CTDLC). Ed Klonoski, President of the CTDLC said, “Over the past six years, the CTDLC has been developing programs and services that support education through online learning, centrally developed and distributed content, and resource sharing. These programs include the Connecticut Adult Virtual High School and other partnerships with the Connecticut Department of Higher Education to develop online college preparation courses.”

Please contact Gretchen Hayden, Project Manager, with any questions about the CT Virtual Learning Center. (860)-832-3891

Other Online Resources

Other online resources are provided to Connecticut school districts by the Connecticut Regional Educational Service Center (RESC) Alliance through the Virtual High School (VHS) and Virtual Learning Academy (VLA).
Virtual High School The CT RESC Alliance has created the Virtual High School Consortium to bring VHS classes to students in the State of Connecticut. VHS is another cost-effective way for schools with limited resources to offer courses they cannot provide in house. Schools can expand educational opportunities for their middle school and high school students by offering Advanced Placement, honors, career exploration, and specialized courses, including summer classes for credit recovery and enrichment. VHS offers over 200 courses for your students, professional development for teachers, and experience in an online environment with peers worldwide. Because this is a statewide initiative, the program offers discounted fees, greater flexibility for membership options, peer support and user group forums, and coordination and support for CT schools. For more information click here or go to the VHS website.
Virtual Learning Academy CREC and LEARN offer an option to help students meet their graduation requirements. The Virtual Learning Academy offers credit recovery courses that fit all learning styles for students in grades K-12. The program’s easy structure and training provides greater flexibility for districts trying to meet the educational challenges of all of their students. VLA is for: Home Bound, Expelled, Drop-outs, Special Needs, At Risk, Alternative Schools, Incarcerated Youth, Non-traditional Schedules, and Athletes (NCAA approved). For more information click here or visit the VLA website.
For questions on these programs, contact Cara Hart at 860-524-4021 or photo credit

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Integrating Blogs into Your Teaching

Some of you are looking for examples of how you might use blogs in your teaching. I will offer up an example of how I used a blog for tutoring training at the College. Below you will find the blog for SJC's Center for Academic Excellence. In addition to the current blogs, notice the table of contents to the left will let you seach for older blogs posted during prior months. Feel free to explore and post your comments about how this blog is being used to train tutors and keep them up to date. In the meantime, you might find some useful resources on the blog to support your own graduate studies at SJC.

School Administrators Blog Away

College president across the country are joining the blogsphere. Here in Connecticut, President Michael Hogan of the University of Connecticut and President Michael Roth of Wesleyan University started blogging this past fall, keeping in touch with students who post comments. One of first college presidents to start a blog, Pat Mc Guire of Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C., observed: “Prior to having genuine technological tools, the only way to be able to communicate was a public forum with everyone coming to one place, or to print a letter or put out a statement…What is more satisfying about working in a blog is that everybody has a chance to say something, sometimes in a forum that can be difficult because some people tend to dominate."

Of course some of the presidents’ blogs are monitored. The Courant reporter on the story qualifies that although the blogs encourage reader response, “the responses are typically screened and are rarely, if ever, posted live, to avoid scurrilous comments and debates that whirl out of control.”

To learn more about how college presidents are using blogs, visit the Courant article at:,0,7183925.story/

Please let us know your thoughts on college presidents and other school administrators using blogs to stay in touch with their respective public audiences. Post a comment.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Halo 3 in the Schools

Halo 3 in the physics class or any class?

Some schools have explored the possibility of using the popular Halo 3 video game as a teaching tool. Teachers see the possibilities for teaching physics concepts as well as other skills. To explore further, check this story featured in a recent edition of Digital Directions. In case, you are not familiar with Halo 3, you need to read this article to see what is sweeping the youth culture.

Post your response to the article and the implications of using video games in schools as a learning tool.
Image taken from

Thursday, February 7, 2008

School Leaders' Technology Deficit

Do you sometimes feel as though chief school administrators are making decisions about the implementation of technology lacking the expertise to do so? If so, you are not alone. Last year, a Southeastern Louisiana University professor surveyed 125 school superintends and found that most lacked the necessary technology training to make sound decisions about technology use in the schools, and some wasted huge sums of money on making the wrong decisions. More than 88% of the superintendents acknowledged they were unaware of national, state, and local technology standards. Likewise, school principals have confessed to a knowledge deficit in the area of technology integration. Education Week’s Digital Directions published an article about educational leaders’ technology gap. To read, the article, go to:

Picture is the cover of Digital Directions’ January 23, 2008.
Post your comments in response to the news story.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Education Goes Online

Surely, you know college students are taking courses as well as earning degrees online. But, there has also been a proliferation of online learning in the K12 arena. Home schooled children often turn to online education sites accredited by public schools to augment and complete their home-schooling. Some high school students take courses online to complete their high school degree requirements.

What impact is the online K12 learning environment having? For one, financial questions have been raised because public school financing covers the per pupil expenditure just as if the student were educated on site at a local school. Thus, if the per pupil expenditure of a student is $6,000, that amount is sent by the district to the private company running the virtual school if the student is enrolled full-time. This amount might not sound like much, but when the expense for all students within a district or state taking advantage of online learning is factored, the price tag is considerable.

The New York Times ran an article this week reporting some statistics. Apparently, a half a million children in the US take courses online. In states like Florida and Illinois, state mandates have driven initiatives in support of online learning and financing this form of learning. In these states, online learning supplements what is occurring in the regular classroom and diplomas cannot be earned online. Many of the courses offered online are aimed at middle school students. The largest public online school is the Florida Virtual School, which enrolls 50,000, according to The Times. In Michigan, educators are interested in the concept to reduce classroom crowding, sending students home to take online classes. The Wisconsin Virtual Academy is a full-fledged charter school. The Times reports that about 185 such charter schools exist nationwide, and 90,000 students attend. As such, these schools are publicly financed. In cases where students were previously home-schooled, enrollment in a virtual school now qualifies them for the district or state to pick up the tab. These virtual schools meet federal testing mandates, and thus qualify to be financed through tax dollars.

In Pennsylvania a suit was filed against financing online schools through taxpayer dollars, on the claim that money was diverted from the regular public schools. The district bringing the suit, however, lost the case.

For many, virtual schools have advantages, especially for those who live in remote locations or have health issues that make daily attendance at public schools difficult. In Kansas, a state auditor, noted that virtual education make sense because students do not have to be physically present in the classroom. Barbara Hinton, the auditor, stated: “Students can go to school at any time of the day and in any place,” which she sees as an advantage. For students living in remote locations, they now have the ability to take such courses as Chinese language. The same is true for students attending public schools in populated areas where select, desirable courses simply are not affordable or practical for the school system to run in-house.

Many of the virtual schools hire licensed, unionized teachers, and meet federal guidelines. Parents like the concept because their children can move through the curriculum at their own pace, and as opposed to regular home schooling, the children are now taught by qualified, licensed teachers. Of note, whereas parents cannot teach their children at taxpayers’ expense, sending students to a licensed virtual school qualifies for the tax coverage. Thus, an influx of interest in online schooling is expected, in part replacing parental efforts to home school their children.

As a public school teacher or potential public school teacher, weigh in on the issue. What are your thoughts on virtual schools and online learning?

Information from this blog was taken from Sam Dillon’s Feb. 1, 2008 article, “Online Schooling Grows, Setting Off a Debate, New York Times, pp. A1 and 22. Photo is from the story and was shot by Darren Hauck and shows Tracie Weldie educating her children at home using curriculum provided from an online school.

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